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The Government must address the scale of the country’s housing “crisis” and the “huge cost” involved in tackling it, the head of a housing and homelessness charity has warned


The Prime Minister is expected to announce a “return to council house building” when she addresses the Conservative Party conference later in Manchester.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter said: “We do need to see some serious numbers being talked about today, but if we do, this could be an absolute watershed because this is what we desperately need.”

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well we’ve got about 1.2 million people on the waiting list currently for social housing.

“Honestly, from what we see at Shelter every day it’s not possible to exaggerate the level of misery that that represents, and we have people pushed into the private rented sector which is completely unaffordable due to a combination of social security cuts on the one hand, low wages, and also then the huge cost anyway within the property market.”

She said there was a need to “cut through” a market approach to providing housing for everyone as some people did not have the spending power to benefit.

She said: “Whether it be directly provided by councils, provided by Housing Associations, we need properties at what we call a social rent, a rent that is absolutely affordable to those on low and very low incomes.”

Andrew Whitaker, planning director of the Home Builders Federation, said land needed to be made available alongside additional council powers.

He said: “Of course what we must see is additional land coming forward, we can’t just substitute tenure so we can’t just use the land that the private sector would have used to develop housing, don’t forget the private sector already cross subsidises affordable housing, but we must have more land and councils must be given the tools in order to deliver their own housing.”

Mr Whitaker said Help to Buy had increased housing supply with more than 200,000 now owning their own home.

Ms Neate said there were three significant blocks to overcome, including localism issues, moving away from the market, and the cost of clearing the housing waiting list and providing a sustainable level of housing.

She said: “Unless the receipts from Right to Buy can be used in the right way that also will be an insurmountable obstacle, so there’s a big cultural change, but if she (Theresa May) does it that’s fantastic because as I say it’s a crisis, the best time to do it is right now.”


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